Playwright and theater legend August Wilson (who passed away in 2005) often sounded embattled. In his interviews and articles, he described black American theater artists—Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, himself—as conducting "courageous forays into an area that is marked with land mines and the shadows of snipers." He worried (with good reason) that the struggle to inject a strong black American voice into American theater would die with him.

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It didn't.

Case in point: The Brothers Size, by Tarell McCraney, now playing at Seattle Repertory Theatre. McCraney's play is a deeply moving, deeply entertaining, and deeply black story that is getting standing ovations at one of Seattle's whitest (if the audience and staff are any indication) arts institutions. At the performance I attended, a matinee mostly populated by the much-derided "blue hairs" of Seattle theater, the crowd went completely bananas. They laughed and clapped and shouted for this technically spare but textually thick play about two black brothers (Oshoosi and Ogun Size, both orphans) living somewhere near the bayous of the American South.

McCraney worked as an assistant to August Wilson, who, in a story often reprinted in McCraney's press, told him that "you have a very strong, clear voice; but you need music." Then Wilson bought his young assistant an iPod.

McCraney is in his early 30s, and he's a seriously good writer. In The Brothers Size, he has the three characters (the brothers and a trickster figure named Elegba) speaking in three modes: They talk through their stage directions ("Ogun stands alone in the night, watching"), they talk in contemporary vernacular to each other ("Nigger, why you gotta bring that shit up?"), and they talk through their dreams. The result is a tripartite textual harmony that shows the characters muddling through the mud of their lives but also gives them a dignity and universality. The Brothers Size is loosely based on Yoruba mythology but firmly rooted in the ground of 21st-­century America. McCraney has written a spell.

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When the play begins, the stage full of nothing but a small mountain of tires, the younger brother has just gotten out of the penitentiary. The older brother has been trying to hold up his end of the family by running an auto shop and keeping clean. Then there's Elegba, who was in jail with Oshoosi and considers him his brother. Jobs, jail, bags of white powder, a black sheriff who gives every other black man in town a heap of shit, and the native tension between The Good Brother (a broad-chested Yaegel T. Welch), The Fuckup Brother (the slightly more rotund Warner Miller), and The Trickster (the lithe and snaky Eddie R. Brown III)—the result is one of the best things at the Rep in ages.

So rest easy, Mr. Wilson. Excellent black American theater is alive, well, and being done in the biggest houses to great acclaim. Your protégés—and your efforts—are with us. And they're here to stay. recommended

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